Redberry Juniper Foliage Moisture Dynamics in the Texas Rolling Plains

Rob Mitchell, Carlton M. Britton

Abstract


An important variable in the successful management of redberry junioper (Juniperus pinchotii Sudw.) with prescribed fire is foliage moisture content (FMC). Juniper canopies are readily ignited by fire when FMC falls below 70%. Our objectives were to determine seasonal changes in redberry juniper FMC, and to determine relationships with soil water content in the Texas Rolling Plains. Trees on sandy bottomland, clay flat, and shallow redland range sites were sampled at approximately 14-day intervals from September 1995 through March 1997 in Garza County. Soil samples were taken beyond the drip-line of each tree to a depth of 12 inches. The FMC followed similar trends on all sites, but was generally highest on the sandy bottomland site and lowest on the clay flat site. The FMC was below 70% on all range sites and sample dates after 24 January 1996. Soil water was highest on the clay flat site, which was due to the higher water holding capacity of the heavy clay soil. The FMC and soil water were poorly correlated on all sites, except for the first 12 months of sampling. Redberry juniper FMC appears to be more closely related to available soil water than to total soil water since foliage moisture was not significantly impacted by precipitation events. Subsoil moisture recharge may occur slowly with average precipitation, and FMC may remain low following severe drought.

Keywords


brush management; cedar; prescribed burning; soil moisture; volatile fuels; redberry juniper

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